Civil society urges governments to agree on a UN tax body as a high priority

13 December 2023

On 22 November, UN members voted in favour of the African Group at the UN’s proposal for a comprehensive UN tax convention. The vote followed a 7 November open letter, signed by over 200 organisations and trade unions from around the world, calling on governments to support the proposal.

The UN body resulting from the convention would move decision-making away from the OECD, a largely rich-nation club, which has been criticisedincluding by UN Secretary General António Guterres – for enabling wealthy countries to have an outsized influence over tax rules while ignoring the needs of developing countries. The letter also raised the importance of ensuring key issues are not left aside in the negotiations, including: Keeping a holistic scope as well as flexibility and resilience to ensure equitable results, establishing of clear links between the new tax body and other UN agendas, and ensuring there is effective civil society participation throughout the process.

The historic decision to start negotiations for a UN tax convention took place in November 2022, by unanimous consensus, and was widely welcomed by civil society groups, which have for more than two decades called for an international tax body that allows all countries to participate equally.

In an open letter the day before the vote, the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT), which includes renowned economists such as Jayati Gosh and José Antonio Ocampo, also expressed support for a UN tax body, urging rich countries not to block the vote. However, the voted passed without the support of EU members, the UK and the US, among others.